Thursday, October 15, 2009
Tips for Hosting a Successful Dinner Party
I was recently planning a dinner party menu and got to thinking about how I approach dinner parties and how much I have learned over the years about hosting them. With the holiday season approaching, I thought now would be a good time to pass along some tips for hosting a successful dinner party.
When you are planning your menu don't overreach your cooking skills or what you are comfortable with in your entertaining space. Serving simple food is OK! Make sure you choose recipes that don't need a lot of last minute work and attention. Risotto for a crowd = not good. Make time to test recipes in advance. If you have to try out a new recipe try a side dish recipe. If it fails, you have the entree to fall back on.
The key to hosting a successful dinner parties is to do as much as possible in advance without compromising the quality of the food.
I start with dessert. Dessert should never be something that you have to fuss with during a party. Make dessert the day before, store it and forget about it.
Next I consider side dishes. If we are having a salad, I make it in advance and store in the fridge (without dressing of course!). Vegetables such as carrots and asparagus can be parboiled in advance and stored in the fridge. I just warm them briefly in a pan with butter or olive oil and serve. If I am doing a potato dish I choose one that can be made in advance and either cooked or reheated prior to serving. If you do need to cook a side dish just prior to serving, all of the prep work should be done in advance.
The main dish is the only thing we are likely to cook while we have guests. Try and select dishes that need minimal time and attention - grilled meat or something that goes in the oven and can stand a bit before serving.
Dinner parties are not just about the food. Your house has to look somewhat presentable. I have a quick checklist that I go through prior to a dinner party to make sure that some basics are covered - the table is set, the porch light is on, the guest bathroom is clean and the garbage is out. I actually have this list written out because I found that when I did not have it I forgot things. The list also keeps me on track so I can get that critical extra 10 minutes before a party to change clothes.
What are some of your tips for successful dinner parties?